So you're sitting across from me in a nice, comfortable armchair. The therapeutic relationship is (hopefully) good, you feel comfortable with the process, you feel like you're making progress. All is going well, apparently.
Would you feel the same if you knew I had been turfed out from previous treatment facilities for a history of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse?
Would you feel the same if you knew I had committed a past criminal offence?
Would you feel the same if you knew that offence related to spousal murder?
Would you want to know this?
Do you think, as a patient, you should know this?
Of course, I hasten to make clear, none of the above applies to me. It does, however, apply to a psychiatrist who is currently practicing in this state. It's a situation that is currently attracting a fair amount of attention and discussion.
According to reports, the psychiatrist was dismissed from four medical facilities in the 1980s due to a personal history of mental illness. In 1987, following a history of alcohol and drug abuse, he fatally shot his wife after their divorce (and there had been an apprehended violence order issued in the previous year). Released on parole in 1990, he was re-registered in 1994 and has been practicing ever since, with no problems reported.
There is currently no obligation for the psychiatrist to tell his patients of his history or for authorities to disclose this information.
The dilemma here is balancing the need for a person who has committed an offence and completed their sentence to be able to commence a new life and the right of a patient to know the background of their doctor.
Of course, this case is extreme. I have to say, as a patient, I'd want to know this. I'd want to be able to check the register for recorded offences, periods of deregistration.
At the other end of the spectrum is the practitioner who's experienced their own depression or other psychological condition but has it under control. Should they be forced to disclose this? I don't believe so.
What does the patient have a right to know? Where do you sit?